Here’s what you get at a Winklevoss twins concert
Can billionaires play music? Depends on what your definition of “music” is.
Rich people can’t make art. This is both an observation and a directive. If you have, say, over a million dollars, why should we care about anything you have to say artistically? What salient points can you make about the human condition when you’ve basically graduated from experiencing it?
Sure, there are arguments to be made that musicians like Jay Z, Taylor Swift, Beyonce—people with more money than most of us can fathom—could be considered artists, and to that I say sure, whatever. I’m not going to police what’s art or entertainment.
But certainly we can all agree that once someone hits a billion dollars, they forfeit any and all artistic licenses, yeah?
Nowhere is this more apparent than watching the Winklevoss twins butcher a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name.”
For those of you who may have forgotten (and, honestly, good for you), the Winklevosses (Winklevai?) are very rich people. Back in the early 2000s, while attending Harvard, they founded ConnectU, a social media platform. Late in the development stage, they brought in famous nerd Mark Zuckerberg, who pretended like he was working with them while secretly using their design/idea to build the much more popular The Facebook, so the Winklevosses sued him for stealing their idea. This whole ordeal was dramatized in David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network, with both Winklevoss twins memorably played by actor/maybe-cannibal Armie Hammer.
Since that whole Facebook thing, the Winklevosses have used whatever fallout money to become even more rich by building a capital investment firm and also a failing crypto currency exchange. Basically, they’re the ultimate role models for dudes who wear fedoras to bars and read self-help books about being alpha males. The internet says the Winklevoss’ wealth is $3 billion.
Now, the Winklevoss twins perform (??) in a “band” (???) called Mars Junction (????!). It sounds like an absolute, slow-motion train wreck, and once I learn that Mars Junction is scheduled to grace the world famous rock club The Casbah with their stupid presence, nothing could keep me from not going.
It immediately becomes clear that calling Mars Junction a band is charitable; Mars Junction is essentially live karaoke, but karaoke where there’s only one singer who doesn’t know they’re awful and won’t let anyone else get a turn.
During “Killing in the Name,” singer Tyler Winklevoss steps off stage and into an audience of about 40 people—one of the lightest crowds I’ve ever seen at The Casbah—and jumps around while yelling “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me.” It’s working-with-the-machine thing I’ve ever seen. The part of my brain that took once any pleasure in Rage dislocates and floats into a gray area reserved for trauma.
I lean over to my friend Graham, and shout over the music: “Who’s the audience for this?”
“Fans of rich people,” he says, without hesitation.
It’s true—it’s a different crowd than who regularly attends music shows (i.e music fans). It feels like these people are all extras in a movie scene: INT: Rock Music Concert. They wear designer v-necks and expensive shoes and move awkwardly like 13-year-olds at a middle school dance. But there’s something empty about their excitement, an emptiness that you find in people who leverage every life experience into something they can use to build online clout, social capital, or financial success.
The band slides into a C-grade cover of Sublime’s “Santeria.” I’ve been to house parties where the inevitable Guitar Guy busts out an insufferable version of this same song, and yet somehow those are better than what the Vinklevosses do.
They plow through song after song and it all, uh, sucks to say the least. Of course it would be a couple of crypto/NFT doofuses that would try to subject the general public to something as inane and ridiculous as Mars Junction, because only in the hands of rich people can art become so cynical and humanity-negating. There is well over a million dollars of production value at The Casbah tonight—a meticulously branded drum set (not to mention an acoustic shield that just looks so dumb on The Casbah’s stage), multiple expensive guitars, private security in black Escalades, and like three touring buses with “Mars Junction” emblazoned across the side.
Considering that I’ve literally had to beg and/or make a fool out of myself to fund creative projects, Mars Junction feels like spit in the face. I’d wager there are a lot of artists out there who only need a $500 grant to complete their vision, yet these guys—these fucking guys—can just decide to be a touring band because that’s what rich people can do. Given the sparseness of the crowd, there’s no way Mars Junction comes close to recouping any money spent on this whim, but I hardly think it matters. They could give everyone in The Casbah a thousand dollars and it wouldn’t affect them. In fact, Winklevosses, that’s what you should do: don’t play any music, just give whoever comes to your shows a thousand bucks. I imagine that’ll save you more money than your current production costs, and it’ll save your fans from having to pretend to like your band.
Mars Junction stumbles through a medley of Police songs, and I can’t stop staring at Tyler Winklevoss’ chain wallet. It’s almost perverted, the way he swings it back and forth. Did he go to Rich Person’s Hot Topic to dress for this show? What exactly goes in a billionaire’s wallet? Are there punch cards for Teslas—buy five and get the sixth free?
“When are they going to play Red Hot Chili Peppers?” Graham asks.
Unsurprisingly, Mars Junctions’ setlist plays like a Now This is What I Call Music: Music for White Dudes edition. Kings of Leon? Check. Blink-182? You betcha. The Killers? Oh you better believe it. And if you want to see a dead-eyed version of “Mr. Brightside” that actually sucks the energy out of the room, have I got a version for you!
I ask Graham if he’d ever join the band if they offered. “You mean sell my soul?” he responds. Then I ask Casbah’s bartender and fellow drummer Ben Johnson the same question. “Maybe for a week?” Ben says after some speculation. “Just to see how the other half lived.” I wonder if that opinion changes when The Winklevoss’ buy every person in the bar (all 40 of us!) a shot, prompting the try-hards to rush the bar for a shot of well tequila. It’s such a sad and pathetic sight—these people salivating for scraps tossed by the Winklevoss twins—that I can’t bring myself to take advantage of the free booze. I move out of the way.
Then, as if conjured by Graham’s earlier comment, Mars Junction busts into Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Suck My Kiss.” Tyler’s overshirt comes off—he means business now. Again, he descends into the crowd, and I elbow past some bros to get some video. Luckily/shamefully I know the words to this song, and can sing along with Tyler, who plays to my camera, and let me just say, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a thug-posturing billionaire sing “Suck my kiss!” at you.
The band ends with a dragging version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” How could they not? Despite what you think of that song (unpopular opinion: it’s a good song), Winklevosses strip anything that resembles grandeur from it. They turn a drunken bro hymn into something sad and lifeless, which is pretty much the perfect encapsulation of their music career.
The song ends, and the Winklevosses walk around The Casbah while their bandmates break down the equipment. Someone next to me jokes, “What, no encore?”
Walking back to my car, I pass the Mars Junction bus and take a photo. One of the private security guys watches me closely, and I hurry away. Despite the shitshow I just witnessed, I drive away with a smile on my face. If nothing, this night has proven that money can’t buy talent. But more so, it’s proof that when you stare into the void, it doesn’t always stare back. Sometimes it doesn’t even know it’s a void. It’ll always be a void and you can just turn away from it and go home.
ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT OF THE AWKSD JUNE SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE!
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THE AWKSD CAPTION CONTEST WINNERS
Last Sunday, I sent out this image and asked readers to give it a caption.
Things got a little dark with this one, as they should have.
Here are the winners:
Aaron Pores: “It says here in the guidebook that this guy tried to declare himself the president for life of Kentucky, but president Yiannpoulos’ Proud Police thankfully stepped in and unplugged his droid pack, ending his 200 year rule as speaker of house… and that’s why we celebrate Jan. 6 as Independence Day and visit this humble grave to remind ourselves that progressive Bots like Mitch McConnell may have once ruled this country but now only real Americans have the right to enjoy beautiful ocean views like the one here in Arizona.”
Thanks for bumming us out/making us laugh, Aaron!
And Dane Bradford: “Klatu... verata... McConnell!”
Caveat: Dane is my brother, and before you accuse me of nepotism, let me remind you that it’s my newsletter and I can do what I want!!!
Congrats, you two. You get free paid subscriptions to AWKSD, and Tom Was Right stickers.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to any of these caption contests. It was fun to draw them (however poorly) and incredibly heartening to read your responses. Even though last Sunday was the “final” contest, don’t be surprised if they show up again.
AWKSD GUEST LIST
The Guest List gives AWKSD subscribers the opportunity to see live music for free. Just reply to this email and let me know which show you want to see, and I’ll hook you and a friend up.
Wednesday, June 29
Pódium (Spain), Los Pinche Pinches, Omega Three @ Til Two Club: Pódium plays vicious punk with a little bit of hardcore thrown in. Watching their live performances, I can’t imagine tonight’s show to be anything but face-melting.
Thursday, June 30
miniaturized, Bandaid Brigade, Takahashi, Pall Jenkins @ The Casbah: Tonight’s the debut performance of San Diego band miniaturized, an exciting new project from former Palace Ballroom singer, Timothy Joseph. From the sound of their single “Life Underground,” it sounds like it’ll be a night of indie pop with a dark and sinister edge.
Korine, Johnny Dynamite, Flaw Lust @ Brick By Brick: It’s hard for me to listen to a lot synthwave—I like the music, but the bleakness often makes me feel cold. Korine’s music, on the other hand, feels darkly hopeful—and even romantic—in a way similar to ‘80s New Wave.
Friday, July 1
Poised in the Darkness, Alde, DJ Camilla Robina @ Til Two Club: If you’re into the type of dark-synth post-punk that feeds fellow children of the night, look no further than Poised in the Darkness. Their music is creepily beautiful, and will darken your soul by at least 70%.
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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Instagram.